The three major US equities indexes opened sharply lower this morning and the slide continued pretty much without interruption all day. About half an hour before closing, all three indexes are down more than -1.5% and today looks headed for the worst day for the markets so far this year. A projected -0.3% contraction in eurozone GDP coupled with a slowdown of GDP growth in China to its lowest level in eight years got equities off on the wrong foot this morning, and there was simply no news good enough to turn things around. The dollar opened stronger today, and has continue to gain strength with the dollar index currently up 0.66% at 79.821. The stronger dollar weighed on crude prices, pushing WTI down -1.9% to $104.70/barrel and Brent down -1.51% at $121.93/barrel. Gold settled down -1.9% at $1,672.10, its lowest finish in six weeks.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down nearly 204points to 12,759.15 (-1.57%), the NASDAQ fell more than 40 points (-1.36%) to 2,910.32, and the S&P 500 fell -1.54% or nearly 21 points to 1,343.36.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) started as ‘buy’ at Nomura; Yandex N.V. (NASDAQ: YNDX) started as ‘neutral’ at UBS; lululemon athletica inc. (NASDAQ: LULU) cut to ‘hold’ at Argus; Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) cut to ‘market perform’ at Bernstein; and Annaly Capital Management Inc. (NYSE: NLY) cut to ‘market perform’ at Wells Fargo.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: Black Diamond Inc. (NASDAQ: BDE) is down -2.1% at $8.74; Fuel Tech Inc. (NASDAQ: FTEK) is up 0.18% at $5.61; Halcon Resources Corp. (NASDAQ: HK) is down -4.6% at $10.27; Verifone Systems, Inc. (NYSE: PAY) is up 7.5% at $50.03; Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. (NYSE: DKS) is up 2.7% at $46.79 after posting a new 52-week high of $47.42 earlier today; Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: IRDM) is up 10.8% at $8.20; Stage Stores Inc. (NYSE: SSI) is down -4.6% at $13.69; and Vail Resorts Inc. (NYSE: MTN) is up 4.7% at $43.43.

Other standouts from today include the following stocks:

Vermillion Inc. (NASDAQ: VRML) is up more than 111% at $2.81. The medical device maker received a code-change approval from the American Medical Association that incorporates one of the company’s devices. More coverage here.

Encore Bancshares Inc. (NASDAQ: EBTX) is up more than 35% at $20.23 after posting a new 52-week high of $20.61 earlier this morning. The bank holding company has been acquired by privately held Cadence Bancorp for about $250 million ($20.62/share).

XOMA Corp. (NASDAQ: XOMA) is up about 30% at $1.89. The biopharmaceutical firm has announced pricing on a share offer of around 29.7 million shares and warrants.

Oncothyreon Inc. (NASDAQ: ONTY) is down nearly -41% at $4.98. The biopharma company reported a significant fourth-quarter EPS miss this morning, along with available cash that will keep the company in operation for about another 12 months.

Zeltiq Aesthetics Inc. (NASDAQ: ZLTQ) is down more than -32% at $7.50 after posting a new 52-week low of $7.46 earlier. The medical technology company posted a dismal fourth-quarter earnings report this morning.

Stay tuned for Wednesday. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
  • 7:30 a.m. – Challenger Gray & Christmas job-cut report
  • 8:15 a.m. – ADP employment report
  • 8:30 a.m. – Non-farm business productivity and unit labor costs report
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
  • 3:00 p.m. – Consumer credit

Paul Ausick

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